Gas prices accelerating scooter sales
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Did I mention the gas mileage? Every week and a half or so, I put about $2.50 in the tank. Lately, it's been more like $2.70.Skip to next paragraph
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From an environmental standpoint, not all scoots are equal. Most older models and some newer ones have a two-stroke engine, like an old-fashioned lawnmower or a chainsaw, which requires a mixture of oil and gas. You can identify these by the puff of blue smoke that belches from their tailpipes as they accelerate. These engines, while generally having a little more zip than their four-stroke counterparts, tend to have terrible emissions. In 2006, the Oregon alt-weekly Willamette Week looked at emissions from two two-stroke scooters and found their exhaust to have far more unburned hydrocarbons and CO2 than an SUV. Granted, SUVs put out a lot more exhaust per mile traveled than a scooter does.
The exhaust from a four-stroke engine, such as the one in my Met, has a much better emissions profile, although it's still not as clean as that which comes from a car's tailpipe, according to the article.
There are more eco-friendly scooters just around the corner. AutoblogGreen has details on a three-wheeled gas-electric hybrid scooter made by Piaggio, the makers of Vespas. And last October, the Monitor's Clay Collins test-drove the all-electric Vectrix, which is now available at some dealers in the US.
Update: US News eco-blogger Maura Judkis compares emissions from two-stroke scooter engines to those from SUVs, using data from Cecil Adams's invaluable Straight Dope column on the subject. Ms. Judkis makes an important distinction between climate change pollution and old-fashioned air pollution. The result? Two-strokes are better for the climate, but worse for city air.
Her blog post gives a somewhat misleading impression about scooters in general though, because it discusses only two-stroke engines, even though she includes a picture of a lineup of Honda Mets, which have four-stroke engines (and catalytic converters to boot). Four-stroke is becoming the norm for most new scooters in the US these days: Check out Vespa's site, and you'll see that they no longer offer any two-strokes.